The first fixture of the Kent Cross Country League (KXCL) 2017 was at Stanhill Farm, Wilmington and hosted by my running club, Dartford Harriers. The farm covers an area of 150 acres and by cross country standards is almost completely flat.
The venue has an area set aside for parking near the main entrance and a charge of £1 was levied. If the car park fills up, there are some side streets within a kilometre of the venue which could be used as an alternative.
The team areas were all set up next to the car park and some portaloos had also been installed for the purpose of the event. I was issued with my number bib and this was to be re-used for each of the four races in the series.
After watching some of the youngsters running in their events, it was time for the senior and veteran races to begin. The women were first, but I didn't see much of this race as I was largely doing my final preparations (visit the toilet, warm up, etc..) for my race.
Underfoot the ground was very dry and firm so I decided to run in my trail shoes - not everybody did the same - some wore spikes while others opted for standard road shoes. If it has been softer underfoot I would gone for spikes, but overall I think trail shoes were the right choice.
Anyway, the mens race started at 14:45 and after a quick team photo, I mingled into the middle of the pack to await the starter's gun. From where I was positioned the start was not quite as swift as I would have expected and I found myself locked into a slower-than-desired starting pace.
The course is run on the farmer's tracks around the edge of the fields and there is a slight uphill slope from the start area towards the back end of the course. Almost all of the corners are 90 degree turns. The men's race covers a total distance of 9.8km and involves completing four laps with first being shorter than the second, third and fourth.
So with my slowish start, I found myself largely catching and overtaking people as I progressed through the race. With the four laps done, the course breaks off from the main loop for a 250 metre dash to the finish line.
As for performance, this league attracts the top county runners so I knew I would be finishing down in the second half of the field, and that's exactly where I was. The official results were available shortly after the race and I had finished in position 179 out of 294 in an official time of 42:21.
In the post-race discussions the general feeling was that I was far too gentlemanly at the start and should have got as close to the front as possible in order to avoid losing the time and positions in the crowd at the beginning.
Results: Official KXCL results page (senior mens race)
GPS data: KXCL Stanhill Farm 2017
Video: Stanhill Farm relive course fly-by
Video: KXCL Stanhill Farm 2017 posted by Mark Hookway